Yesterday was my second turn in the “Gourmet Sunday” slot. The boys were heading off to do a friend’s garden so Lyra and I would be left to let the day develop. I was up with the lark (or by 10 past 8 at any rate) and had two loads of washing on, Saturday night’s detritus washed up and the belly pork salted before anyone else appeared. Lyra seemed unusually excited and I later discovered, following my nose, the cause. Eating the windfall apples does not agree with her. By 9.15 I was feeling rather “housewife superstar” to be quite honest.
After a fortifying breakfast of porridge and the last of the bottled plums Lyra and I waved the gardening party off and set out for a walk. After a brief visit to the cows, who were in excellent spirits and confident of the weather despite the mist, we headed up the hill and along the lane. There seemed to be a great many reports in The Border Smellygraph. A closer inspection disclosed lots of deer tracks and spoor and what looked very much like fox poop. I kept a firm grasp of the lead. Fox poop is the crack cocaine of the dog underworld and, given the opportunity, Lyra will roll in it in a frenzy of delight. Washing Lyra is well night impossible for me these days, she’s so big she can barrel her way out of any tub and the shower door will never be the same again since my last attempt at “the Raymond Method”. (The ex army officer with the grooming service in Chirnside seems to have special powers, but it is a few weeks before madam has her next shampoo and set). Further along we spent a while watching Squirrel Nutkin in the oak canopy. That boy can jump! All along the hedgerow the blackbirds were out in force, darting to and fro and chucking away to each other.
On to the Deer field. The pylons were fizzing in a rather unnerving way so, probably against all logic, I kept Lyra firmly on the lead. However, this proved to be a good thing as there was a young deer in the hedge. We played our usual game of “how close can I get” and I think we maybe got a few yards nearer than last time before they (as there turned out to be a second behind a tree) bolted up the hill to the wood. You can play “where’s Bambi” with the photo below. On past another rabbit warren and onto the road, where chaos ensued. Doreen was walking Murphy, her elderly boxer, off the lead and he took an instant dislike to our miss, bounding over barking and snapping. Lyra was utterly non plussed as she had been expecting a friendly lick and a bum sniff. She took evasive action and she and Murphy milled around Doreen like a tangled skein. Lyra being on the lead, Doreen was trussed up like a chicken and promptly fell over, adding to the melée. Finally, with a last grab Murphy was collared and we, thinking discretion the better part of valour, departed the road and came home across the big stubble field. At the bottom of the field Lyra startled two deer. She watched them intently as they jumped across the drainage ditch to the next field, but decided not to follow. The deer startled a pheasant in their flight and this, seemingly, was a more realistic prey and with the chase. She swarmed over the ditch and through the hedge and was just in time to stop and watch it fly off. At this point it became clear that Lyra had completely forgotten the way back. She ran up and down the opposite bank, missed the shallow patch entirely and in the end went up to her neck in ditch water before scrambling up the steep end of the bank. Later, chatting to Ian (who was in search of pheasants to feed), he mentioned having read that labradors have the brain capacity of a pigeon. Lyra chose to ignore that remark as she is not a Labrador.
Returning home after a sturdy lunch I foraged in the vegetable garden and the store shed for ingredients. (There was an odd moment when I furtled in what I thought was a tray of potatoes and found several partridges waiting to be plucked). Thus equipped, I rolled up the culinary sleeves and set to work. Within the hour there was pastry resting, potatoes for gnocchi on to boil and a big bowl of hazelnut frangipane. I find making small quantities a bit tricky, and in the end there was enough pastry and filling mix for eight tarts and a bit left over. I toyed with criss cross lattice on the top, but then remembered the fancy cutters purchased years ago. A purchase now totally vindicated (recipe will be uploaded shortly in case of interest). The pork was patted dry and popped on to roast, onion set to marmalade and I was on to the gnocchi. I’ve not had huge success with these in the past, too stodgy, but was trying a new recipe. This worked much better (the trick was to boil the potatoes skin on and dry them off in a low oven to reduce the moisture content). The only criticism over dinner was that they were perhaps too fluffy (!). The recipe said use immediately or freeze, so I took the unorthodox step of freezing the ones I wanted for the same evening, just in case. Finally, I made an enriched bread dough for stuffing with an unreasonable amount of cheese. By the time the weary gardeners returned I was pretty much done and the gin and tonic well deserved.
This morning Lyra and I enjoyed a quiet moment with the last few dirty pans, a leftover cheese bun (sharing), crackling (Lyra) and coffee (me) before the hordes descended. And I am now off cooking detail for a few days.